Mamo #304: Mamo After Breakfast

The first prequel-sequel in the Star Trek reborquel lands with a wet thud and Team Mamo assembles to discuss what went wrong with Star Trek Into Darkness

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Matthew Fabb

You mention how Star Trek was strongly male in the exit polls, but didn’t mention how old it was pulling. 27% under 25 versus 73% 25 and over. Compared to say Iron Man where it is 45% under 25 and 55% 25 and over. That only gives a small picture rather than a larger age breakdown.

Still that’s quite the devoid of younger audience interested in Star Trek: Into Darkness.

As for the question of Khan and whether he should have been marketed, I’m not sure it would have mattered. As someone else mentioned in another thread just about anyone who knows who Khan is, is already seeing Into Darkness. That said, no matter who the character is they could have built him up more in the advertisements.

That said, both Iron Man 3 and Star Trek: Intro Darkness have a big character reveal in their movies. It completely works in Iron Man and doesn’t quite pack the same punch in Star Trek.


also it was mentioned somewhere else about the importance of arcs, and will comment here:

arcs ought to be grace notes not impetus for everything. There are arcs in STID but they are hardly the point of it anymore than arcs (not arks) in Indiana Jones matter, it is about pleasuring in the adventure with a group of characters that you enjoy hanging out with. There is a mystery, but it may as well be a scooby-doo mystery. It is a device to get the characters running around, quipping, have harrowing moments, have archetypes we have come to love do their thing (in perpetuity not for arc growth).

Start Trek characters came from an era when there was none of this modern seasonal arc growth to characters, it was about philosophy and pulp adventure, and the characters were fixed, and we loved them because they stayed the same.

There might even be something presentist to Abrams incarnation of storytelling, as I quote a passage from Present Shock:

“…presentist literature might even be considered a new genre in which writers are more concerned with the worlds they create than with the characters living within them. As Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth, explained in an interview, it is no longer the writer’s job to ‘tell us how somebody felt about something, it is to tell us how the world works’… Characters must learn how their universes work. Narrativity is replaced by something more like putting together a puzzle by making connections and recognizing patterns.”


It should be noted that there is a wonderful character arc in Temple of Doom, perhaps the only Indy movie that plays with the notion of his character. And since it is a prequel of sorts, it makes sense to see him go from Mercenary to altruist in that one.


One mention of ‘arcs’ and people start seeing them everywhere.
‘Story arcs’ and ‘character arcs’ is TV writers room jargon, used as generalised terms for shaping out episodic television, and at some point it’s filtered out and now all film and TV criticism is some sub AV Club chatter about arcs and thru-plotlines and callbacks, and is just drivel mostly.

imo, the popular idea that story = arc and vice versa is reductive and specious. I mean, you can take story structure back to Aristotle, but although there’s a venn overlap, I feel that arcs and story (inc. character) don’t mean the same thing.

Actually, who cares. I’m out.


listening to the podcast now. You both mention that STID is like a best-of hits of Wrath and you found yourselves watching all the pieces falling into place… to me it was no more than Prometheus to Alien. There are easter eggs to be had, but if anything the criticism I hear is how little this seems like Kahn – it is hardly a rehash of the same plot. There are pieces that draw parallels (albeit indirectly) with the original, but the whole torpedo-pods, the Klingons, the Peter Weller character (who is the villain for a bulk of the run-time) the covert black Enterprise, the lack of a Genesis device … none of this feel beholden or a retread of the original. Even the character of Kahn is reformed to be almost unrecognizable.

I am not familiar with the tv episodes relating to Kahn, maybe that bleeds over, I don’t know.


repost my comment from Matt Brown’s Twitch article (, why not…

its nerdism, a genre unto itself. the hall of mirrors is your own obsessions playing back to you, and they make billions of bucks because there is a whole micro-autistic culture of film geeks that are archiving cinema rather than experiencing it, and this kind of in-the-know is what made the subtext easter eggs of Lost into front and center text with the future incarnation storytelling.

It is an aesthetic. Tastes can be discerning, but in and of itself it matters how the aesthetic is used and to what effect. If it is just name-dropping, winking, branding, toy-merchandising, source material circle jerk, that it is a vapid application of the aesthetic, the same way one can play with Americana as an aesthetic but saturate it Michael Bay style to something reeking of car commercials.

I don’t think Abrams’ Star Trek use of nerdism aesthetic is vapid, and in particular with Into Darkness, I don’t think he is operating paint-by-number in strict observation of Wrath of Khan… in fact there are so many dissimilarities between the two projects (to the very look and behavior of Kahn) that most people are bitching about why it should even be called a Kahn movie. This story is not just a reboot, or reboquel as you said, it is an alternate universe which allows for in the narrative explicit some unique privilege to the homages that are sprinkled through – there may even be a long-term narrative thrust (akin to Lost) to show how behaviors in different realities may not be coincidental but driven by some yet unseen cosmic force. On that level at least Abrams is doing something new with the concept of homage. I don’t think Into Darkness is as slavish to the source material as you let on. There are the same characters because in the alternate universe they exist, and there is a knowing, nerdist re-calibrating of the experience in foreknowledge (like the audience) of what came before (an attitude of storytelling being ‘one of us’ rather than behaving aloof to that reality of nerdism). But Into Darkness is an original story that just uses the previous for grace notes only.

It plays with geek expectations but it does it to their advantage, what they THINK they know about what will happen, subverting it in points while all the while creating a movie experience that is meant to be fun albeit less goofy than its predecessor. You want to hang out with this crew, you are in a somewhat familiar world, but different, and the dissonance creates a tension that would not be their otherwise had this been your father’s Trek. Rather than submerge fully into nostalgia wankery, he uses it as a platform to tell new stories… the cinematic equivalent of what in comic books I believe are called “what ifs”.

The point is not how this fits into a neat canon to obsess over… it is to pull the rug from under the fans, use what they know against them, so as to jolt them into an experience. Nerdist as a narrative tactic as much as a nostalgic flourish.


Listening to the show. I don’t care enough about many franchises to really get upset about anything, but hearing you talk about it, it feels like you’re grading this one on a curve vs. in your words “A proper Star Trek movie”.

It’s that kind of fan ownership over properties, be it Indiana Jones or Les Miz, that just gets me shaking my head again at fan culture. There’s so little license out there to mess with anything that the more they are catered to, the more it ends up like the Itchy and Scratchy Poochie focus group which as we all know turns out greeeeeeeeat. But they still want to be in that focus group.

I mean, in this show you’re upset that they didn’t just talk about Khan in advance of release. Now… if you had LIKED the movie as many apparently do and they had advertised Khan, there’d be if not from you, then from many others, anger the other way about the state of the internet having to know everything and blah blah how studios need to hype stuff up instead of letting us have surprises anymore. It’s a no-win scenario.

At any rate, I was down on the first Trek initially. I got over it. To me this new one is more of what works in the first one, which is strong character dynamics and performances and some above average action scenes with traces of things to chew on but not a real meal. Which in the end makes a decent albeit not fantastic popcorn flick. I would’ve been one of the good Cinemascores you refer to, you’ve got points there, as I wouldn’t push anyone to Trek really.

But that score has reflected on some others. The Croods, for example.

Sean Kelly

“Worst Star Trek Ever! I will only see it 3 more times…today!” 😛

Andrew James

“to me, this new one is more of what worked in the first one, which is strong character dynamics and performances and some above average action scenes with traces of things to chew on but not a real meal.”

Which is what every Star Trek film has been for the past 30+ years!!


I bought Galaxy Quest at lunch today and realized I think I like that movie more than any of the Star Trek films that I have seen. (I have not seen I, III, V or VI)


Galaxy Quest is a very, very good film.


Modern audiences have gone from nascent pop-cultural awareness to militant pop-cultural archivists concerned with canon and its preservation. Perhaps an offshoot of us all becoming exhibitionists by cultural circumstance, there has quickly developed a spirited urgency in a larger subset of the film-going audiences to claim membership to exclusive clubs of which they are proud co-arbiters of its meanings.

Films meant for these audiences can either pander to what the groups think they require or find a way to agitate the self-entitled into an unplanned experience (best tinged with a nostalgia of their youth, when they once had a spark of spontaneity left to their feelings).

Marvel tends towards the former option, rarely straying far enough to challenge, wishing instead to indulge the archivist’s sense of the familiar so that they relax into a comfortable fog of their own myopic pleasures.

The Abrams/Lindeloff/mysterybox approach is the latter, but distinct in one respect from most in that they use geek fetishism as a narrative tactic in order to infiltrate the safe confines of geekdom and use their penchant for pattern recognition to coax them outside of their comfort zone and into spontaneous experiences. For many, this tactic can have adverse effects, rallying the wagons tighter together at first flush of being questioned. But for some geeks on the fence, geeks such as Abrams and Lindeloff, there appears to be some wish-fulfillment of allowing the unknown back into the equation, to get back to when we were kids (a staple of film geekdom) and everything felt new. You cannot redo the past because we don’t live there anymore (part of the failure of Super 8 I think is due to this shortsightedness) but you can strategically create the environment to trick us into that once plentiful place of awe. It is no longer about just making a great story that is onscreen, but making an event, a circumstance through which we can spindle away our sense of entitlement (that groupthink parasite) and become that wide-eyed boy or girl we once were.

Now, it is a narrative tactic, a trick, a means of saving us from ourselves… in and of itself, I am not saying it is foolproof… it is not enough to get us to this moment of being open to anything, if what we are left with is not, on its own merits, satisfying. But those are two different beasts. I think the mystery box stylistic choice that Abrams uses is effective, is worthwhile and is unfairly shat upon by many. I just also happen to think the content lives up to the delivery mechanism, and for the most part he delivers the goods.

one caveat: talking about big budget blockbuster movies, and not subscribing to auteur theory, so the final products are never quite entirely mystery box insurgencies, they still exist to make lots and lots of money, and mitigating factors allow this experiment up to a certain point, but clearly there is a bit more grit to these exercises than those typical of Marvel (though the last Iron Man appears to as a gimmick played in the realm of disrupting orthodoxy)


“The Abrams/Lindeloff/mysterybox approach is the latter, but distinct in one respect from most in that they use geek fetishism as a narrative tactic in order to infiltrate the safe confines of geekdom and use their penchant for pattern recognition to coax them outside of their comfort zone and into spontaneous experiences. ”

Nice sentence, but they very much do not do this with the last act of Trek…


I don’t know, how Spock behaves seems outside of the orthodox, and what happens to Kirk also. I will agree though the plot mechanics are strained, and the last ten minutes are not that great.

Michael M

I would like to address the box office restrictions of this Star Trek series.

— My younger brother and his friends were not interested in seeing this movie or the previous one in a theater. (they did check out the previous one in rentals and thought it was alright.) Their main reasoning is that this series looks like a TV show. To their defense(IMHO), they did see movies like Inception, District 9 etc. in the theaters. (I have seen the 2009 film 4 times in theaters)

My point is STAR TREK does look like a TV show because it is meant to be a TV show not big budget spectacle movies. It is just 10-15 people sitting in a lens-flared-glittery-lit room talking about mostly impersonal stuff.

If you look at the spectacle movies they sell these days -Eiffel Tower Collapsing, New York, Chicago, London blown to hell. And the biggest set-piece of this movie is Enterprise falling out of the sky (person unfamiliar with Trek says ‘Is that a Meteor! And so what?’)

— J.J. Abrams make everything look small scale. With his extreme tight close-ups he makes movies for iPad. (I think Mr. Ebert had the same problem with the last movie.) He is great at making small budget movies look bigger (Super 8, Cloverfield etc.) but he does completely opposite for big budget movies (MI 3 also applicable).

— Star Trek will never be an International hit. If audience outside North America didn’t get Star Trek in the last 50 years, it’s safe to assume that they won’t in the future.

— On a side note, James Cameron thought(re:Star Trek) this makeup-job-aliens seem too cheesy for modern audience, that is why he wanted to do Na’vi aliens the way he did. The audience who are not familiar with previous Star Treks don’t buy the Vulcan ear makeup anymore. While the fans seem completely OBLIVIOUS (as in Arrested Development) regarding this.

I am not a Star Trek fan (although I’ve seen almost everything – the movies, TOS, TNG, DSN, Voyager, Enterprise but not the animated series). So I have a little more objective POV than many others here. And I gotta say, even James Cameron cannot make Star Trek accessible and popular for the Widest International audience.

So I hope the producers/execs get Star Trek back to the basics with great TV shows and smaller scale movies rather than trying to fit Star Trek in the modern action-blockbuster-paradigm.



What I said: “There are arcs in STID but they are hardly the point of it anymore than arcs (not arks) in Indiana Jones matter, it is about pleasuring in the adventure with a group of characters that you enjoy hanging out with.”

In certain adrenaline forms of entertainment, the arcs matter LESS THAN the enjoyment of hanging out in adventures with characters that are of a fixed episodic nature (Community is a play on this)

See Indiana Jones, Abrams’ Start Treks, Pirates of the Caribbean.

Something is not a significant defect of a work if it is not designed for that primary purpose. The convoluted plot mechanics of STID are there to protect the mystery, to hopefully enhance the fun of the experience. It is not there to table profound character development or sophisticated interlacing of plot and character arcs as if this was a screenwriting workshop and the issue of actual entertainment was an ancillary function. Abrams keeps his eye on the ball, he wants a popcorn movie. Less thinky, more punchy. The thinky stuff are more geek booby-traps in service of the mystery box tactic.

to those insisting there are no character arcs:

STID has a simple fully formed character arc for Kirk and Spock:

“the main arc is between the friendship of Kirk and Spock, Spock learning to be less Vulcan, more human, of the characters reversing roles and in the process growing to understand one another and deepen their friendship (a keystone of the whole show). Kirk is required to self-sacrifice (of course mirroring what Spock tried to do in the beginning) and Spock is given a chance to see the experience from Kirk’s perspective. The obstacle in the arc is not Kahn, it is Spock’s Vulcan tendencies which are overcome by this role-reversal.”